In one point of view they were unquestionably correct. The queen did undoubtedly desire to establish in the French court the customs and the feelings which, during her childhood, had prevailed at Vienna; but they were wholly wrong in thinking them Austrian usages. They were Lorrainese in their origin; they had been imported to Vienna for the first time by her own father, the Emperor Francis; when she referred to them, it was as “the patriarchal manners of the House of Lorraine” that she spoke of them; and her preference for them was founded on the conviction that it was to them that her mother and her mother’s family were indebted for the love and reverence of the people which all the trials and distresses of the struggle against Frederic had never been able to impair.
Nor was it only the old stiffness and formality, which had been compatible with the grossest license, that was now discountenanced. A wholly new spirit was introduced to animate the conversation with which those royal entertainments were enlivened. Under Louis xv., and indeed before his reign, intrigue and faction had been the real rulers of the court, spiteful detraction and scandal had been its sole language. But, to the dispositions, as benevolent as they were pure, of the young queen and her husband, malice and calumny were almost as hateful as profligacy itself. She held, with the great English dramatist, her contemporary, that true wit was nearly allied to good-nature; and she showed herself more decided in nothing than in discouraging and checking every tendency to disparagement of the absent, and diffusing a tone of friendly kindness over society. On one occasion, when she heard some of her ladies laughing over a spiteful story, she reproved them plainly for their mirth as “bad taste.” On another she asked some who were thus amusing themselves, “How they would like any one to speak thus of themselves in their absence, and before her?” and her precept, fortified by example (for no unkind comment on any one was ever heard to pass her lips), so effectually extinguished the habit of detraction that in a very short time it was remarked that no courtier ventured on an ill-natured word in her presence, and that even the Comte de Provence, who especially aimed at the reputation of a sayer of good things, and affected a character for cynical sharpness, learned at last to restrain his sarcastic tongue, and at least to pretend a disposition to look at people’s characters and actions with as much indulgence as herself.
Settlement of the Queen’s Allowance.—Character and Views of Turgot.—She induces Gluck to visit Paris.—Performance of his Opera of “Iphigenie en Aulide.”—The First Encore.—Marie Antoinette advocates the Re-establishment of the Parliaments, and receives an Address from them.— English Visitors at the Court.—The King is compared to Louis XII. and Henri IV.—The Archduke Maximilian visits his Sister.—Factious Conduct of the Princes of the Blood.—Anti-Austrian Feeling in Paris.—The War of Grains.—The King is crowned at Rheims.—Feelings of Marie Antoinette.— Her Improvements at the Trianon.—Her Garden Parties there.—Description of her Beauty by Burke, and by Horace Walpole.